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Get Over the Wall as a First-Year Nurse

Get Over the Wall as a First-Year Nurse

Megan Malugani | Monster Contributing Writer

Surviving your first year as a nurse will likely be one of the biggest challenges you will face in your career. Almost universally, first-year nurses have days, weeks or months when they feel overwhelmed, inadequate, disillusioned, stressed out or all of the above. If you’re thinking, “Was I really cut out for this job?” these tips can help you get through your first year as a nurse with your sanity, confidence and love of the profession intact.

Accept Your Limitations (and Keep Your Ego in Check)

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Nursing school can often leave new nurses with unrealistic expectations. “A lot of us nurses are Type A, brainy people who were used to getting good grades in nursing school,” says Ashley Flynn, who has been an RN in a surgical unit at Children’s Hospital Boston since late 2006. “Nursing school is so hard that when you graduate, you think you know what you’re doing.” However, you won’t know everything all the time, but that doesn’t make you a bad nurse, she says.

Don’t Try to Do It All

Likewise, new nurses must come to terms with the fact that they may not be able to accomplish everything on their to-do lists everyday. “There were days I ran rampant and didn’t eat lunch until 3 in the afternoon, and I left crazy and felt like I wasn’t doing a good job,” Flynn says. That’s when her preceptor would have her write out what she needed to do herself, what she could delegate and what she could leave to the next shift. “You have to learn to accept that nursing is a 24/7 job, and you’re only there for 12 hours at a time,” Flynn says. “There’s always going to be something that you can’t be there for or that you can’t get done. You have to rely on a lot of other people.”

Ask for Help

Good nurses – whether newcomers or seasoned veterans – know when to call in reinforcements. For Andrea Kuehn, who has been an RN in the hematology-oncology unit at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center in St. Louis since March 2007, that means asking doctors and more experienced nurses lots of questions. “I’m never scared to ask questions, and I don’t care if I’m getting on someone’s nerves,” she says. “[My] patients’ quality of care [is] at stake.”

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